BEIRUT - President Michel Suleiman has called on the Lebanese
Shi'ite Muslim Hezbollah movement to pull its guerrillas out of Syria, saying
any further involvement in its neighbor's civil war would fuel instability in
Hezbollah militants spearheaded the recapture of the strategic
border town of Qusair two weeks ago by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad, which now appear to be preparing for an offensive in the northern city
"If they take part in a battle for Aleppo, and more Hezbollah
fighters are killed, it will lead to more tension," Suleiman told the Lebanese
newspaper As-Safir in an interview published on Thursday.
"This should end in
Qusair, and (Hezbollah) should return home." Hezbollah's intervention in Syria
against mainly Sunni Muslim rebels has further inflamed sectarian rivalry in
Lebanon, where fighting between Alawite pro-Assad and Sunni Muslim anti-Assad
gunmen in the northern city of Tripoli has killed dozens.
battle for Qusair started a month ago there have been frequent rocket attacks on
Shi'ite areas of eastern Lebanon from suspected rebel-held areas in Syria. A
previously unknown Syrian rebel faction claimed responsibility this week for
killing four Shi'ite men in the Bekaa Valley on Sunday.
Lebanon is mired
in political paralysis which has forced the delay of a parliamentary election
and is holding up efforts to form a cabinet. The impasse, along with the influx
of half a million Syrian refugees, led former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to
appeal to Suleiman this week to act to stop "state collapse".
Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, has become increasingly assertive in criticizing Syria, which dominated its smaller neighbor militarily and
politically for three decades before the outbreak of the uprising against Assad
Lebanon's National News Agency said Suleiman sent the Arab
League a memorandum on Thursday requesting an end to Syrian violations of
Lebanese sovereignty. He gave a similar note to the United Nations
representative in Beirut earlier this week.
Suleiman has spoken out
against Syrian military incursions into eastern Lebanon against rebel forces,
and become more open in his criticism of Hezbollah's military support for
The group, set up with Iranian support to fight Israeli occupation
forces in southern Lebanon 30 years ago, is the only faction which kept its
weapons after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, saying they were to protect
Lebanese from Israeli forces.
After Israeli air raids on targets near
Damascus last month, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would support any efforts by
Syrian authorities to encourage militant attacks on the Israeli-occupied Golan
Heights, seized from Syria in the 1967 war.
"From the start I told them I
do not accept such behavior and I am against going to the Golan because this
exposes (Hezbollah) and Lebanon to the Israeli enemy," Suleiman said.
also voiced concern about Lebanese Sunni fighters who have crossed into Syria to
join rebels trying to topple Assad.
"When I spoke with President Barack
Obama recently and he said he was worried by Hezbollah's intervention in Syria,
I said immediately: 'We're also worried by the intervention of all Lebanese
factions in Syria'."